A blog by Director Terry Todd
OUR BODY: The Universe Within (Closed Exhibit)
By Terry Todd
Posted April 14, 2010
Update: Exhibit Closed. Click here to see our current exhibit.
Following a month of complicated negotiations, the Stark Center is very pleased to announce the opening of a major traveling exhibit, which will be the inaugural presentation in the Joe and Betty Weider Museum of Physical Culture. Because of unanticipated hold-ups with the construction of several permanent displays for the Weider Museum, we decided to join forces with the owners of an exhibit–OUR BODY: The Universe Within-as a way to bring visitors to the Center, generate revenue, make use of the beautiful museum, and fulfill our mission of sharing knowledge about the history and importance of physical culture.
OUR BODY: The Universe Within focuses on human anatomy through the display of approximately 200 human bodies, organs, and other anatomical specimens. The bodies and related displays are produced through a process called polymer impregnation, in which the bodies’ water and fat are replaced with reactive plastics. This renders the specimens firm, changeless, and odorless and it allows visitors to view all aspects of the body in ways normally only accessible to medical doctors and scientists. The focus of this particular exhibit-which only appears in museums–will be on fitness, health, and sports. What’s more, many of the specimens will allow visitors to more fully understand the importance of exercise and a proper diet.
OUR BODY also weaves images from anatomical art created over the centuries with the specimens themselves as a way to promote thought and an understanding of the way the human body has served as an ongoing inspiration to artists and scientists. These historic images blend very naturally with the many paintings and classical statues scattered throughout the Stark Center’s lobby, reading room, and art gallery. Although medical science has solved many of the puzzles of the human body, the body itself remains an enduring mystery and a source of wonder to any thinking person. It seems to me that anyone who takes the time to really look at this exhibit will be moved by the complexity of the temples in which we’re destined to live out our lives. Some may even be moved to ask a question similar to the one posed by William Blake about a rather different body, “What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry.”
One of the most spectacular aspects of the exhibit is the way in which many of the specimens reveal the body’s musculature and how it all works together to produce complex movement. Full-body specimens are shown kicking a soccer ball, dribbling a basketball, riding an exercise bicycle, and many of the specimens reveal the muscles underlying the muscles on the surface of the body. Anyone who has ever experienced exercise- or sports-related soreness or injury will be able to see with real precision how and where it probably happened.
The displays in OUR BODY: The Universe Within are thematically grouped and presented with the dignity appropriate to the use of real human bodies donated to science for research and education. Neither cell phones nor photos are permitted in the exhibit, which we expect will be an enlightening experience for people of all ages and backgrounds. Some of the displays allow visitors to see, for example, the effect of smoking on the lungs, the effect of cardiovascular disease on the heart, and the effect of obesity on the body’s structure. Presented as they are, these roomfuls of specimens combine an austere beauty with a silent but persuasive call to live an active life. We feel truly fortunate to be able to share them as well as the many other items of interest displayed throughout the Stark Center.
During the exhibit, which opens on April 24th, the Stark Center’s public galleries, including the Weider Museum, will be open seven days a week. The Center’s research library will maintain its usual schedule. Exhibits, such as OUR BODY: The Universe Within, have been seen by many millions of people around the world, and over an eight month stay in Detroit this particular exhibit drew 270,000 visitors. Details about hours, directions, parking, access, and ticketing can be found on our website www.starkcenter.org